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Analysis Forecasts Derailment Every Other Year If Oil Train Terminal Is Built

By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — A proposal to build the largest oil train terminal in the Pacific Northwest could result in a derailment every two years and an oil spill from a derailment once every 12, according to a draft analysis by a Washington state agency.

The document, released Tuesday, indicates that most fire departments along the oil trains’ rail route are not prepared for a spill or fire that could accompany a derailment. Out of the 12 departments that responded to the survey request, only one indicated its firefighters are trained and equipped for such an incident.

Further, only half the departments said they knew the locations of BNSF Railway’s specialized firefighting equipment closest to their jurisdiction. And while three-quarters of them reported having access to personal protective equipment, firefighting foam and foam applicators, only a quarter said they had access to oil spill containment booms.

The draft environmental impact statement from the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council said that BNSF would bring four oil trains a day to the Vancouver Energy facility at the Port of Vancouver, Wash., with the loaded trains mostly following the path of the Columbia River and the empty trains returning east via Tacoma, Auburn and Stampede Pass.

With those four daily trains, carrying 100 or more cars each of either light crude from North Dakota or diluted heavy crude from western Canada, the agency forecast “a derailment incident might occur once every two years with a loaded train, and once every 20 months with an empty train.”

The document noted, however, that not all derailments would result in a spill.

Tina Barbee, a spokeswoman for Vancouver Energy, said the company was reviewing the document and “will be able to address specific issues and respond to more detailed questions over the coming weeks.”

Courtney Wallace, a spokeswoman for BNSF, said the railroad had trained 800 firefighters in Washington state this year, and that included giving them the location of BNSF’s specialized firefighting resources.

She said BNSF has equipment and personnel staged in Everett, Seattle, Longview, Wishram, Pasco and Spokane.

“We will continue to work with first responders to ensure they have information about BNSF’s resources,” Wallace said.

©2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: SounderBruce via Flickr

 

Northern California Wildfire Threatens More Than 2,000 Homes

By Adolfo Flores, Los Angeles Times

The King fire in Northern California has grown to about 27,930 acres and now threatens 2,007 homes in forest communities east of Sacramento, officials reported.

In addition to the homes, the blaze also threatens 1,505 other structures as firefighters struggle against strengthening winds, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Winds continued to drive the fire east, west, and north over mountain and ridges and through deep canyon troughs. Spotting — or embers lighting fires ahead of the flames — has also helped fuel the blaze, said Laurence Crabtree, a U.S. Forest Service supervisor for the Eldorado National Forest.

The King fire, which erupted Sunday, is 5 percent contained, fire officials said. About 3,300 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is burning in steep terrain in the South Fork of the American River Canyon and Silver Creek Canyon, north of the community of Pollock Pines.

On Wednesday afternoon, the fire made a significant run to the northwest, forcing more evacuations.

“It’s been growing all day,” said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “Extremely dry conditions have really allowed this fire to grow and over the next couple of days we’re expecting the wind to pick up, so that’s going to challenge us significantly.”

The blaze has become one of the largest and most unruly of 10 major wildfires burning across California, mainly in the central and northern parts of the state.

The Black fire north of Lake Mendocino was contained Wednesday afternoon, Berlant said. It had burned 403 acres.

Firefighters battling the Boles fire made some headway against the 375-acre fire, with 60 percent of the blaze contained by Wednesday evening, up from 30 percent earlier in the day.

The fire erupted late Monday and quickly ravaged the logging town of Weed, just west of Mt. Shasta, damaging or destroying more than 150 structures, including such community institutions as churches, a library, and the town’s sawmill.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Authorities are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the cause of the blaze. Anyone with information is asked to call (800) 468-4408.

In Madera County, the 320-acre Courtney fire was 70% contained Wednesday evening. That fire had destroyed 30 homes, 19 outbuildings, and 13 vehicles.

All evacuation orders for the area were lifted about 6 p.m., but fire crews remained at the scene to watch for new spot fires and hot spots, the Forest Service said.

The Happy Camp Complex fire in Klamath National Forest remains the largest wildfire in California at 125,788 acres. That fire is 68 percent contained.

That blaze is made up of 15 fires, all of which were sparked by lightning Aug. 12.

AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan

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Wildfires Rage Across Drought-Hit California

Los Angeles (AFP) — As many as 6,000 firefighters were battling a wave of wildfires raging across California, which is gripped by a historic drought and near-record temperatures.

Thousands of residents have been evacuated and buildings ravaged in at least one of the fires in northern California, while southern California has been hit by power blackouts as people turn their air conditioning up to full blast.

There are currently 12 major fires across the vast western U.S. state, including near the town of Weed, where flames damaged or destroyed over 100 buildings including the local church.

“Since last year there are much more fires because of the drought,” CalFire spokeswoman Alyssa Smith told AFP, adding that there have been 200 more fires this year compared to the same time last year.

On Sunday, about 1,000 people were evacuated near Yosemite National Park in central California. The blaze that began near Bass Lake burned 330 acres (133 hectares) in a matter of hours.

California, baking in temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (nearly 40 degrees Celsius), is in the third year of its worst drought for decades, devastating its largely agricultural Central Valley in particular.

In southern California, near-record temperatures for a sixth straight day led to a surge in electricity use, triggering outages which left some 7,000 people without power.

California often faces fierce fires in the summer and fall, but wildfire season began early this year, with the extreme drought of recent months generating dozens more blazes.

AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan

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California Wildfires Burn Homes, Force Residents To Flee

Los Angeles (AFP) — Raging wildfires damaged or destroyed over 100 buildings in California and forced hundreds to evacuate in the drought-stricken U.S. state, officials said.

The Boles Fire, one of up to a dozen blazes gripping the state amid a heatwave, erupted near the town of Weed, some 280 miles north of San Francisco near the Oregon border.

By Monday evening it was 15 percent contained and had damaged or destroyed over 100 buildings, and forced the evacuation of three nearby communities, according to CalFire’s website.

Winds gusting up to 40 mph helped fan the flames.

“The fire was able to rage right into the community before we were able to get fire equipment into the scene,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant told the Los Angeles Times.

“The fire was starting ahead of itself; the embers thrown ahead touched the brush and structures,” he added of the blaze, which covered some 350 acres.

Meanwhile, another wildfire some 140 miles northeast of San Francisco more than doubled in size, to 8,600 acres, forcing the evacuation of some 130 homes, firefighter said.

By Monday evening the King Fire was threatening some 500 homes, according to the Sacramento Bee newspaper.

On Sunday some 1,000 people were evacuated near Yosemite National Park in central California. The blaze that began near Bass Lake burned 330 acres (133 hectares) in a matter of hours.

Temperatures in central California rose to nearly 104 degree Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) over the weekend, part of a heatwave expected to last through the common days.

California often faces powerful fires in the summer and fall, and the extreme drought of recent months increases the risks for more blazes this year.

AFP Photo/Mike Mcmillan

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